Home > History of Wine > “French Supersubmarine Is More Deadly Than Cruiser” and It Even Carried Wine

“French Supersubmarine Is More Deadly Than Cruiser” and It Even Carried Wine


The French submarine Surcouf. c. 1936. Wikimedia.

The French submarine Surcouf. c. 1936. Wikimedia.

The French submarine Surcouf was launched in 1929 in direct response to the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922.  This treaty placed a limit on naval construction to prevent an arms race in the post World War I years.  The limits were placed on surface ships, restricting both total displacement and the caliber of the guns.  The French sought to exploit the lack of restrictions on submarines by commissioning what was in effect an undersea cruiser.  This submarine did not go unnoticed for there are dozens of articles about the launching in American newspapers.  These articles bore such titles as “France Will Launch Greatest Submarine”.[1]

Wine stowage just forward of the 550mm torpedoes. Image from Serivce Historique de la Defense. [4]

Wine stowage just forward of the 550mm torpedoes. Image from Serivce Historique de la Defense. [4]

At 400 feet in length she was the size of a light cruiser and larger than any American and British submarine.  She was armored to a degree like a surface ship, carried four 5.5 inch guns as well as torpedo tubes.  She even had a watertight hanger with a seaplane.  This “undersea dreadnaught” or “French monster” could travel halfway around the world at 13 knots without refueling.[2]  Within the hull was space for 8 officers and 110 men including 90 days worth of provisions.

Wine stowage just forward of the 550mm torpedoes. Service Historique de la Defense. [4]

Wine stowage just forward of the 550mm torpedoes. Service Historique de la Defense. [4]

The French navy allowed for wine in their rations and this was not neglected in the Surcouf.  Just forward of the reserve 550mm torpedoes was stowage for 5.2 tons or 5200 liters of wine.  This capacity would provide half a liter of wine per man per day for all 90 days.  Given that the daily French naval ration was half a liter there would be no wine for any of the 40 prisoners she could carry.[3]

Would you want your wine to come out of one of these tubes? Surcouf inside.  Image from sub-driver.com. [5]

Would you want your wine to come out of one of these tubes? Surcouf inside. Image from sub-driver.com. [5]


[1] Date: Sunday, December 23, 1928 Paper: Omaha World Herald (Omaha, NE) Page: 13
[2]Date: Sunday, November 3, 1929 Paper: Seattle Daily Times (Seattle, WA) Page: 12
[3] The National Review, Volume 45. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=11NWAAAAYAAJ&pg=PR1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[4] The plans were originally available at Service Historique de la Defense. URL: http://www.servicehistorique.sga.defense.gouv.fr/
[5] There are a few dozen great images in the thread “New info on surcouf”. Sub-Driver.com. URL: http://forum.sub-driver.com/showthread.php?1499-New-info-on-surcouf/page7

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